David Gaughran

The Industry View – Amazon vs Hachette

1 August 2014

From a Words with Jam interview with David Gaughran:

WWJ: This is not the first time a distributor and publisher have clashed. Why is Amazon v. Hachette attracting more interest than, for example, Barnes & Noble v. Simon & Schuster?

DG: Because it’s Amazon! It doesn’t matter that Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster had a similar dispute last year (without people losing their minds) because the currency of the internet is attention and a story on Amazon will guarantee more clicks than anything else. The spat between Amazon and Hachette is essentially a business dispute between a large corporation and a very large corporation, but the “industry” is attempting to depict it as a battle for the future of writing as a viable profession.

This allows them to tap into the fear that many writers have about the paradigm shift that’s underway. Hachette can’t come right out and say that it wants higher book prices (which is the result if they prevail in negotiations and take back control of pricing and/or restrict Amazon’s ability to discount), so instead we get a narrative of a rapacious corporation versus a plucky guardian of our literary heritage. Authors should adopt a little more scepticism towards what is a concerted PR campaign from a series of vested interests.

. . . .

WWJ: Accusations and emotions are running high, with commentators invoking everything from commercial suicide to predicting the death of literature. What’s your outlook?

DG: Fear is the most powerful tool if you want to manipulate public opinion. Emotions are running high because the publishing industry is being radically reshaped by the same disruptive forces that have transformed all sorts of industries from travel and insurance to newspapers and music. Change is scary, and the publishing industry is changing at light-speed. If you want a parallel with music, I think it’s akin to going from vinyl straight to MP3.

Publishers like Hachette have been doing everything possible to slow down the changeover from print to digital. It knows that self-publishers and small publishers are grabbing huge market share because large publishers don’t have a lock on digital distribution like they do with print. Once a reader goes from shopping in Waterstones to buying e-books from Amazon, that reader starts buying way more books that aren’t published by the biggest players. The response of large publishers to the digital revolution was to drag their feet on the digitization of backlist books, institute windowing for e-books (so they weren’t released at the same time as hardbacks), and engage in an illegal conspiracy to fix the price of e-books to keep prices artificially high – all of which is designed to slow down the switch to digital.

Hachette’s aim in these negotiations is to regain control of retail pricing and/or restrict Amazon’s ability to discount books. The net effect will be higher prices for readers, which in turn will slow down the transition to e-books. This buys Hachette time as it figures out this weird thing called the internet and how to talk to those strange people called readers – something they didn’t really have to do in a print world where its customers were booksellers.

I absolutely reject the notion that if Hachette fails to regain control of retail pricing and/or restrict Amazon’s ability to discount books that this will lead to some kind of disaster. I think that’s a regressive, zero-sum view of the marketplace which fails to grasp that books are in competition with all sorts of other forms of entertainment. I think lower prices are something that we should strive for as that grows the market – which benefits all writers (and readers).

. . . .

WWJ: Amazon’s hold on the market is described as a monopsony. If the UK had retained the Net Book Agreement [fixed price book agreement such as exist in France and Germany], would we now be playing on a fairer field?

DG: It’s quite revealing how traditional publishers cast envious eyes at the price-fixing/discount-restricting laws in places like France and Germany. It makes a mockery of any claim that they weren’t intending to fix e-book prices in America. The nostalgia with which the Net Book Agreement is viewed is equally illuminating. Such price-maintenance agreements are always presented in the media as a positive thing for the future of literature, but they are really about control. Publishers want to maintain e-book prices at a higher level so they can slow the changeover to digital as much as possible. Let’s be very clear about this: anyone campaigning for these kinds of laws or agreements is campaigning for higher book prices – something I absolutely oppose and something I think would be an incredibly regressive step.

With regard to the UK in particular, the problem, in my view, wasn’t getting rid of the Net Book Agreement, but the practice of publishers offering sweetheart deals to chains and supermarkets, making it next-to-impossible for independent bookstores to compete.

Link to the rest at Words with Jam

Kindle Unlimited: The Key Questions

21 July 2014

From David Gaughran:

Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited on Friday, giving self-publishers a big decision to make.

The long-rumored subscription service will allow users to download unlimited books for $9.99 a month, and reader reaction has been, from what I can see, overwhelmingly positive – especially because they will be able to test the service with a month’s free trial. Writers have been a little more cautious, for all sorts of reasons I’ll try and tease out below.

The main stumbling block for self-publishers is that participation in Kindle Unlimited is restricted to titles enrolled in KDP Select – Amazon’s program which offers various additional marketing tools in exchange for exclusivity. Author compensation will be similar to borrows under the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – a percentage of money from a fixed pool. The only real twist is that payment will be triggered when 10% of downloaded books have been read.

. . . .

How much will we be paid for borrows?

There’s actually no way of knowing right now. Authors had the same questions when KDP Select launched in December 2011, and I remember estimates ranging from $0.30 to $2. In the time since, borrow payouts have averaged $2.19. It seemed like Amazon was always keen to keep the rate around $2, adding and subtracting money from the fixed pool each month to keep things at that level.

It could be the case that KDP Select and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library was (at least in part) a giant experiment paving the way for Kindle Unlimited, and it could also be the case that Amazon will maintain borrow rates at around $2, but we can’t be sure until it happens. It’s possible that Amazon could let borrow rates slip and hope that increased volume makes up for it. We’ll have to wait and see.

Will this cannibalize paid sales?

This is the big question. It seems safe to assume that paid sales will be cannibalized to some extent, but Kindle Unlimited could also grow the pie. We don’t know how popular it will be with readers, but I’d be very surprised if it was a flop.

So which kind of readers will it attract? Will it be all the bargain-hunting readers that swamp sites like BookBub and make limited-time 99c sales so effective? Will it gobble up the freehunters that make permafree such a winning strategy? Will it wean the power readers off box-sets?

. . . .

Don’t Oyster and Scribd have better terms for writers?

For most self-publishers, the only way into Oyster and Scribd is via a distribution service like Smashwords, where you will get 60% of your list price every time that 10% of your book is read. Unless you are writing lots of very short/cheap books, the terms there can be much more lucrative (assuming Kindle Unlimited borrow rates do indeed come out at around $2 – which is still an open question).

However there’s a flipside to that. There’s no way in hell that the terms that Oyster and Scribd are offering are sustainable. Obviously, both companies are happy to eat the losses today in exchange for market share tomorrow, but those compensation terms will have to deteriorate at some point. The only question is how much. I have issues with Amazon’s compensation model – I hate the fixed pool on principle, and I don’t like not knowing what I’ll be paid in exchange for my work – but it’s definitely more sustainable.

Link to the rest at David Gaugran and thanks to Donna for the tip.

Writer’s Digest Dumps Author Solutions

23 June 2014

From David Gaughran:

I have some huge news: Writer’s Digest has terminated its partnership with Author Solutions.

Abbott Press – the imprint launched by Writer’s Digest, parent company F+W Media, and white-label vanity press provider Author Solutions – is still operational, but all ties to Writer’s Digest have been cut.

It appears that Abbott Press will now be run directly as yet another Author Solutions brand but Writer’s Digest and F+W Media will have no further connection with it.

. . . .

Writer’s Digest and F+W Media refuse to comment, despite being given several opportunities, but I’ve had this news confirmed by multiple sources. As Author Solutions only tends to allow early termination of partnership agreements if the partner signs a series of non-disclosure agreements, a formal announcement or comment is unlikely.

However, it’s clear from the websites of Writer’s Digest and Abbott Press that all links between the companies are in the process of being severed.

. . . .

Author Solutions aggressively pursues strategic partnerships to lend credibility to its scammy practices. More importantly, these partners help keep the pipeline of email addresses and phone numbers flowing. As I detailed two weeks ago, Author Solutions needs huge numbers of leads because it only converts 5% of queries into customers.

Author Solutions first floated a partnership in 2010, but Jane Friedman – then publisher of Writer’s Digest – was unhappy with the idea and the direction the company was taking in general, and resigned.

. . . .

This is a huge partner for Author Solutions to lose – the biggest so far by some stretch.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

Who’s Afraid of Very Cheap Books?

10 June 2014

From David Gaughran:

A common meme in publishing is that cheap books are destroying the world or literature, and that low prices are undermining the viability of publishing or writers’ ability to make a living.

I’ve long thought this position is nonsense – a narrative which plays on misplaced fears of change and a confusion of price and value, which is also based on flawed assumptions and analog, zero-sum thinking.

. . . .

Self-publishers are fond of 99c pricing for a number of reasons. It’s the lowest price you can set at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo without making your book free, and it has an obvious impulse buy appeal to readers. This price point is particularly popular for the first in a series or a limited-time sale in conjunction with an ad spot, but some have used it more aggressively.

I launched my latest novel Mercenary at 99c (logic here) but plan to raise it to $4.99 this week.

. . . .

1. 99c doesn’t devalue books. How could it? Readers love cheap books! Do libraries devalue books? What about cheap paperback classics? Second-hand bookstores? Friends sharing books? All of these things encourage reading. Books reducing in price is a wonderful phenomenon that should be encouraged and celebrated. Unless you want reading to be a minority sport for the (shrinking) middle class.

2. A writer has a duty to herself and no one else. She shouldn’t have to make decisions for the good of the “industry.” What does Penguin Random House care for the average writer? Does it care if its decisions impact upon the ability of self-publishers to earn a living? Hell, no. Cheap pricing is a wonderful tool when used correctly and can greatly expand an author’s readership (and income).

3. Cheap books expand the pool of readers which safeguards the industry’s long-term health and makes writing as a profession more viable as a result. Self-publishers don’t have to pay for office blocks, printers, binding, storage, distribution. In a digital world, there are fewer up-front costs and far less ongoing costs. Why shouldn’t we pass on some of those savings? Let’s not forget that readers have been screwed by higher prices from large publishers since the consolidation wave of the 1990s.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible and thanks to SFR for the tip.

The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1: The Numbers

4 June 2014

From David Gaughran:

The more you study an operation like Author Solutions, the more it resembles a two-bit internet scam, except on a colossal scale.

Internet scammers work on percentages. They know that only a tiny fraction of people will get hoodwinked so they flood the world’s inboxes with spammy junk.

While reputable self-publishing services can rely on author referrals and word-of-mouth, Author Solutions is forced to take a different approach. According to figures released by Author Solutions itself when it was looking for a buyer in 2012, it spent a whopping $11.9m on customer acquisition in 2011 alone.

This money is spent on:

  • Paying bloggers, websites, and companies a “bounty” based on how many writers they can deliver to Author Solutions.
  • Buying a huge presence at writers’ events such as the Toronto Word on the Street Festival the Miami Book Fair International, and the LA Times Festival of Books.
  • Setting up a whole string of misleading websites which purport to offer independent self-publishing advice, but which actually only recommend Author Solutions companies (such as iUniverse, Xlibris, AuthorHouse, and Trafford).
  • Lots and lots of advertising, particularly Google AdWords ads, to drive inexperienced writers towards these deceptive websites, as well as SEO to push down critical voices.
  • Setting up fake social media profiles of people claiming to be independent publishing consultants… who only recommend Author Solutions companies.
  • Spambots – because the world needed more of them.

. . . .

Some complain that prospective customers of Author Solutions should do more research –caveat emptor and all that. This is a little unfair for three reasons.

  1. The deceptive practices outlined above.
  2. Author Solutions keeps launching new brands (20 at last count) with similar prices and practices, but without the internet baggage. This makes a mockery of Author Solutions CEO Andrew Phillips’ recent claim that “we are not trying to deliberately confuse anybody”.
  3. Finally, it appears that most prospective customers do actually research the company thoroughly and step away. Out of the 475,000 leads, Author Solutions only converted approximately 5% into customers.

. . . .

Author Solutions also needs to aggressively pursue new business because its existing customers don’t come back for more. According to figures released by CEO Andrew Phillips, Author Solutions and its subsidiaries have published 225,000 titles by 180,000 authors – an average of 1.25 titles per author. The lack of repeat business is in stark contrast to someone like Smashwords which has 310,168 titles from approximately 80,000 authors – an average of around 3.88 per author.

. . . .

Author Solutions sold 27,500 publishing packages in 2011 and, in the information sent out to attract a buyer in 2012, Author Solutions forecasted that the number of publishing packages sold to authors would increase to 30,700 in 2012, and to a staggering 49,015 in 2015.

These packages are widely considered to be massively overpriced compared to competing services but where Author Solutions really makes its money is in aggressively upselling a range of additional services to authors – not included in those expensive packages they first purchase. Most packages don’t even include editing, and this is the first area where sales consultants try and hit their internal targets (claimed in the class action to be $5,000 per customer).

When these sales consultants contact authors, they invariably claim they are calling from Bloomington, Indiana. I should note however that approximately 78% of its staff is actually based in Cebu, Philippines – including the sales and marketing departments. The actual location of Author Solutions staff is important for a number of reasons, not least ascertaining the English ability and editing qualifications of staff working on these books.

. . . .

Penguin [decided] to purchase the company for $116m in July 2012. At the time, the writing community expressed shock at that move, given Author Solutions’ well-known history, and the long-standing warnings from watchdog bodies like Writer Beware.

Some expressed hope that Penguin would clean house, but all it has done is aggressively expand Author Solutions’ operations, with new imprints targeting Spain, Malaysia, India, and South Africa, as well as new white-label self-publishing services for huge companies like Simon & Schuster.

It was clear that Penguin knew exactly what it was purchasing. Companies don’t splash out $116m without doing a thorough check. John Makinson (Chairman and CEO of Penguin at the time), when announcing the purchase said, “We’re looking to upsize not downsize. There are no plans for layoffs, this is an opportunity for growth.”

Penguin’s name also lends credibility to Author Solutions, and its sales consultants have dangled the prospect of Penguin picking up customers’ books. One writer who published with Xlibris (an Author Solutions company) relayed the following:

They told me that with Penguin buying them they could, basically, guarantee that Penguin would look at my book and because it was so good (she’d read the first couple of pages) they would definitely pick it up.

Needless to say, Penguin did no such thing.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible

This Is The Kind Of Competition Publishers Want

31 May 2014

From David Gaughran:

Since the huge shift to online purchasing and e-books, a common meme is that there is some kind of “discoverability” problem in publishing.

The funny thing is readers don’t seem to have any problem finding books they love. Any readers I talk to have a time problem – reading lists a mile long and never enough hours in the day to read all the great books they are discovering.

The real discoverability problem in publishing is that readers are discovering (and enjoying) books that don’t come from the large publishers. What these publishers have is a competition problem not a discoverability problem.

Amazon regularly gets slated for purported anti-competitive actions, but it has done more to create the digital marketplace than any other company. It has also done more to open up that marketplace to vendors of all shapes and sizes than any other company. Small publishers and self-publishers, for the very first time, have a level playing field with large publishers.

In other words, Amazon has fostered huge levels of competition that rarely get spoken about. Because Big Publishing doesn’t want actual competition. It hates actual competition.

What Big Publishing wants is the faux-competition that existed before the digital revolution – when they had a lock on distribution, reviews, chain stores, supermarkets, and airport bookstores. (Seriously, does anyone aside from James Patterson want a return to those days?)

. . . .

Big Publishing might like to think it’s a special snowflake (to which the law doesn’t apply), but its speech and actions follow a very familiar pattern that is witnessed any time a cosy club is being disrupted. By ushering in the digital revolution, then opening the marketplace up to anyone and creating a level playing field, Amazon has poured cold water on this garter snake breeding ball.

Large publishers have proved adept in one area: getting their message out. Sometimes it feels like they spend more on corporate PR than breaking new authors, and you need a bullshit dictionary to parse their statements.

So when large publishers say that the discoverability puzzle hasn’t been solved online, they are really expressing despair at retailers recommending books not published by them.

And when large publishers say that online retailers haven’t matched the experience of buying in physical stores, they mean that they wish there was some way to relegate all that stuff from small publishers and self-publishers to the warehouse, and have tables piled high with James Patterson and Snooki.

. . . .

The fear-mongers always forget Amazon’s core philosophy: recommend the product the customer is most likely to purchase. It’s interesting to note that this is the exact opposite of traditional co-op: recommending the book that the publisher wants purchased.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible and thanks to David (not Gaughran) for the tip.

Amazon v Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin

27 May 2014

From David Gaughran:

The internet is seething over Amazon’s reported hardball tactics in negotiations with Hachette.

Newspapers and blogs are filled with heated opinion pieces, decrying Amazon’s domination of the book business.

Actual facts are thinner on the ground, however, and if history is any guide, we haven’t heard the full story. Here’s how it started.

In a historical quirk of the trade, publishers and booksellers negotiate co-op deals at the same time as the general agreement to carry titles. (For those who don’t know, co-op is the industry term for preferred in-store placement, such as face-out instead of spine-out, position on end-caps, front tables, window displays, and so on.)

At publishers’ insistence, the same practice has continued in the online and e-book world, namely that negotiations regarding virtual co-op (e.g. high visibility spots on retailer sites) take place at the same time as discussions over general terms and publisher-retailer discounts.

There is a lot at stake in such negotiations – for both parties. Either side can lose millions and millions of dollars depending on what cost is agreed for co-op and what percentage discount off list price is agreed for the retailer. Negotiations can be particularly hard fought, as is often the case with large companies and huge sums of money. And the stakes are much higher since the price-fixing trial.

. . . .

A friend of mine is published by Hachette. His latest came out this month so I’ve been aware of this dispute for while. We noticed some strange things happening with his Hachette book pages on Amazon – stuff that only appeared to be affecting his Hachette titles. A quick check confirmed that all Hachette books seemed to be affected, and, indeed, only Hachette books. At this point, Hachette hadn’t started contacting its authors or briefing the media, but it was clear there was some dispute between it and Amazon.

. . . .

Pre-orders are a facility that Amazon extends to certain publishers. Except for the very biggest sellers, self-publishers don’t have access to this facility – probably because Amazon has (reasonable) doubts as to whether self-publishers en masse could deliver without issues. After all, Amazon is the customer-facing entity in the chain, the one that will be the target of the reader’s ire if the book is delayed.

. . . .

It’s possible that Amazon is strong-arming Hachette. But it’s also possible that Amazon has removed the pre-order facility because it doesn’t currently have confidence that Hachette can deliver books on time. The simple fact is that we don’t know.

The dispute could center on any number of issues. It could be that Amazon is seeking huge percentage discounts which are making Hachette blanche. Or maybe the price of Amazon’s co-op has increased (fairly or unfairly) and Hachette is unwilling to pay. Or perhaps Hachette wishes to sell e-books under an agency-type model and retain control of retail pricing, and Amazon wants to sell Hachette’s e-books under a wholesale model and be free to discount at will. It might simply be the case that they are poles apart on the exact levels that Amazon will be permitted to discount.

We don’t know. And if we don’t know the exact nature of the dispute, we can’t pronounce judgments as to whether Amazon is being unfair or using their market power in anti-competitive ways. If the latter is true, Hachette has a remedy open to it: the courts.

. . . .

I’m always skeptical when a story with precious few facts is reported in an uncritical and uniform way.

It’s almost like it’s the result of a very smart PR campaign. It’s almost like Hachette is part of a giant mass media conglomeration with billions of dollars of revenue and hundreds of outlets in which to push its message. It’s almost like Hachette is part of an international publishers’ association which has explicitly stated it will be flooding the media this year with stories intended to advance its interests.

. . . .

Hachette isn’t the only large publisher with a vested interest in the current dispute. As mentioned above, the court mandated settlement in the price-fixing case set out a schedule by which publishers would renegotiate their deals with retailers. Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and HarperCollins will all have to go through the same process – all staggered six months apart. All of them will be watching the outcome of Hachette’s negotiations closely. All of them are rooting for Hachette to “win.”

. . . .

Suffice to say that it’s pretty easy for large publishers to get their message heard, and that’s without including the army of blogging authors and agents who often gravitate towards the same positions, as well as the horde of newspaper columnists desperate for a book deal.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible and thanks to JR for the tip.

PG says Big Publishing can’t win a PR battle with Amazon and it’s foolish to think it can. Believing an anti-Amazon campaign can work exposes a big midtown Manhattan blind spot.

In the US, Amazon is one of the widely-known consumer brands. Even more important, it consistently has the best or one of the best reputations of any brand.

The 2013 Harris Interactive poll of consumer brand perceptions placed Amazon as the brand with the best reputation in the US, beating out Apple and Walt Disney. People love Amazon. Among other indicators, Amazon’s consistent quarter-after-quarter, year-after-year growth in sales demonstrates this.

Against this public perception of Amazon, who’s Hachette? Who’s James Patterson?

PG suspects David is correct that much of the Hachette vs. Amazon publicity is part of a PR campaign to give Hachette and, later, other publishers an advantage in their negotiations with Amazon.

Certainly, this PR campaign has the publishing world in a tizzy. Editors and agents and trad pub authors can speak of nothing else. Publishers Weekly will be good for many more articles.

.001% of Amazon’s customers are up in arms. The rest are probably oblivious and, even if they knew, couldn’t care less.

Sorry, Big Pub, America just isn’t that into you. You’re going to have to deal with Amazon without the public’s help.

Indie authors and small presses say to Big Pub, “Pull your books off Amazon. Please! Even if only for a day.”

How To Increase Piracy

13 May 2014

From David Gaughran:

A common misconception in publishing is that Amazon has the exclusive right to sell Kindle-compatible e-books. For example, I was at the London Book Fair’s Great Debate in 2013 when author Robert Levine said that once someone purchases a Kindle, Amazon has a monopoly on selling that user e-books. Levine gave it as another example of (and reason to fear) Amazon’s dominance.

It’s a compelling narrative. Big Bad Amazon suckers people in with cheap devices and then locks them into their walled garden, turning them into customers-for-life whether they like it or not. The only problem is that it’s not true.

Smashwords, Omnilit, All Romance Ebooks and DriveThruFiction are just four examples of retailers who sell Kindle-compatible e-books. There’s no restriction, legal or otherwise, on anybody else doing the same. Indeed, Amazon’s primary competitors – Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo – could start selling Kindle-compatible e-books tomorrow if they chose to.

. . . .

At the London Book Fair in 2011, Evan Schnittman said that the dominance of Amazon’s “closed platform” posed a tremendous problem for publishers. At the time, he was working for Bloomsbury, so I went to their website, curious to see if they sold direct to readers. They did, but epub files only, not the mobi files needed to work with Kindle devices. Those readers were provided with a link to Amazon instead.

This amused me greatly: a publishing executive complaining about Amazon and lack of competition when his own company was choosing not to compete with Amazon, and was instead delivering customers to Amazon – readers who wished to buy from Bloosmbury direct!

I don’t want to single out Bloomsbury because most large publishers take this approach. Most don’t sell direct to consumers, and even when they do, they only sell epubs (which aren’t Kindle-compatible) – not mobis (which are). This is particularly crazy when you consider that Kindle owners and app users make up two-thirds of the US market and over four-fifths of the UK market.

. . . .

Publishers’ fear of piracy was so great that they chose not to sell direct to Kindle owners or indeed sell Kindle-compatible books through any non-Amazon retailer. In other words, it’s publishers who are building the high walls around Amazon’s garden through their insistence on DRM (applying it as a choice when selling on Amazon, not a requirement). This DRM-centric approach prevents publishers from doing all sorts of other things too, such as bundling print and digital, and it often leads them to place ridiculous restrictions on their authors who want (and need) to give free copies to reviewers.

All this might have made some convoluted sort of sense if DRM was in any way effective at combating piracy. But it’s not. Any hacker worth their salt can crack DRM in two seconds flat. And it only takes one before that book is set free on torrent sites and endlessly copied.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible and thanks to David (not Gaughran) for the tip.

Combine Amazon Derangement Syndrome with a profound industry-wide ignorance of all things technological and Big Publishing keeps shooting itself in the same foot over and over.

Publishers Weekly Ignores The Real Scandal At LA Times Festival of Books

9 March 2014

From David Gaughran:

Publishers Weekly whipped up a storm on Wednesday with news of a deal between Amazon and the LA Times Festival of Books, resulting in calls for the publishing community to boycott the event. But Publishers Weekly is ignoring the real scandal.

Amazon isn’t listed as a sponsor or scheduled to appear. The “deal” in question pertains to the LA Times Festival of Books signing up as an Amazon affiliate so they can earn a percentage from sales made through their website. Mary Williams, of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, complained that sales will be “siphoned away” by Amazon.

. . . .

The reaction was predictable:

The LA Book Festival is a place where book publishers, booksellers, and book lovers come together as a community to celebrate their shared values. Those values are far removed from Amazon’s. Giving Amazon such a prominent role is, to say the least, inappropriate and insensitive.

Give me a break. This is the same LA Times Festival of Books that has been welcoming Author Solutions for years without a peep. And aside from scamming writers in general, Author Solutions has also been scamming authors at the event.

I reported last month that Author Solutions is selling $3,999 book signing packages to appear at the LA Times Festival of Books, and that by Author Solutions’ own figures, they screwed authors out of over $900,000 at last year’s event alone.

This book signing scam has been going on at the LA Times Festival of Books for at least five years. Where’s the outrage? It’s pretty hard to miss the giant row of Author Solutions booths at the event. Why didn’t all these indie booksellers and publishing professionals threaten a boycott over Author Solutions?

. . . .

A media organization, and the editors and journalists that work for it, makes subjective choices all the time. They choose to run a story about Amazon’s partnership with the LA Times Book Fair. They choose to print six negative reactions to the news and zero critical analysis. They choose to make this their headline story. And they choose to cover the Amazon angle and ignore the much worse Author Solutions story. Objectivity, as always, is a fig leaf.

While Publishers Weekly is strangely reticent to cover the Author Solutions story, it’s more than happy to take its money. Author Solutions sells six different Publishers Weekly advertising packages – costing between $2,599 and $16,499. These are pushed by its huge team of sales consultants, who are famous for putting the squeeze on inexperienced writers and making false promises, behavior which has led to a class action suit for deceptive business practices.

Author Solutions makes two thirds of its income from selling crap like this to writers (instead of making money with writers by actually helping them sell books). And you can see the full list of companies who have such dealings with Author Solutions – a virtual Who’s Who of traditional publishing – at the bottom of this post.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible and thanks to Pamela for the tip.

PG says nobody in the traditional publishing ecosystem becomes upset when organizations make money at the expense of authors. However, when they make money at the expense of bookstores or pubishers, it’s a scandal.

A Victory Against Author Solutions

14 February 2014

From David Gaughran:

It should be clear to everyone now that Penguin Random House has no intention of cleaning up Author Solutions.

. . . .

I’ve been covering the Author Solutions story for a while now – particularly since the Penguin purchase, which was met with disbelief in the author community.  It’s a frustrating beat, especially when faced with a wall of silence from the many companies and organizations in traditional publishing who have links to Author Solutions and its subsidiaries.

Documenting the links between Author Solutions and the rest of the publishing world is depressing work. The list reads like a Who’s Who of traditional publishing. Getting them to discuss their links to Author Solutions has been near-impossible, let alone taking any action with regard to those links.

One exception has been The Bookseller.

criticized The Bookseller when I learned it was carrying advertising from Author Solutions. Those ads were being re-sold by Author Solutions to its customers at insane mark-ups (prices up to $10,500). Price-gouging aside, I felt that Author Solutions being able to offer such advertising to its customers bestowed legitimacy on its scammy operations.

That post led to a dialogue with Philip Jones, the editor of The Bookseller. Last week, he told me that The Bookseller is no longer accepting such ads. Here’s the money quote, reproduced with permission:

The Bookseller is no longer taking advertising from Author Solutions or its subsidiary companies. We’ve previously asked them to update the information they display about us on their websites, and have now asked them to remove it entirely.

. . . .

This week I discovered another prestigious literary festival which has been welcoming Author Solutions for several years. From figures in their own press release regarding the 2013 LA Times Book Fair, Author Solutions hosted 80 book signings and showcased 1,100 titles.

By their own price list – where they charge $3,999 for the former and $599 for the latter – this netted Author Solutions $658,900 for “showcasing” those books and a further $319,920 for the book signings. That’s a total of almost one million dollars. From one event!

It’s great to get a victory against Author Solutions, but it’s time to increase the pressure on the companies and organisations which still have links with the company. I’ve been asked by readers to compile a list of such links, and I’ve copied that below.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible

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